88 Minutes (2008)

Rated: R for disturbing violent content, brief nudity, and language.
Length: 108 minutes
Grade: BD-CB=B
Budget: $30 million
Box Office: $36 million (17 U.S., 14 Intl., 5 DVD)

Written by: Gary Scott Thompson, who is the main creator for the TV show Las Vegas, he also wrote for Hollow Man, Fast and the Furious, and is involved with the current Knight Rider series.
Directed by: John Avnet, whose previous work includes Red Corner and Fried Green Tomatoes, although he’s been the producer for Sky Captan and the World of Tomorrow, Inspector Gadget, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her, When a Man Loves a Woman, and both Mighty Ducks movies.
Starring: Al Pacino, Alicia Witt, Leelee Sobieski, Amy Brenneman, William Forsythe, and Neal McDonough.

On the eve of the execution for a brutal serial murderer he helped convict, forensic psychiatrist Jack Gramm is being threatened with death if he can’t figure out who is behind a series of copycat crimes that seem to implicate him.

Entertainment Value: B
It’s a good thriller, although I’m generally not particularly fond of thrillers that are predicated upon bizarre sexual deviance, as this one is. Pacino is great, as usual. Neal McDonough is frightening, as usual. Sobieski is outstanding. Everyone else is, well, everyone else. It’s a well-designed whodunit with tension and uncertainty enough to keep you guessing…even if it’s sometimes totally implausible.

Superficial Content: D-
Drugs/Alcohol D, Sexuality D, Violence F, Language D, Illegality F
This pretty much has it all. The main issues here are some gruesome scenes of violence and torture and several violent episodes including people being shot and killed. Otherwise, there is one scene with nudity, several sex scenes, discussions of sex, plenty of alcohol, language, and, of course, it’s a movie about a serial murderer.

Significant Content: C
Justice matters. Sometimes the truth is hard to find through a court trial. People can be easily misled by psychologically deranged individuals. Grief combined with guilt are powerful motivating factors in some people’s lives. The path to victory is through strength and intelligence, taking matters into your own hands.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
As a thriller, it’s very well done in terms of misdirecting you. As expected, there are some unbelievable elements, such as the events at the apartment. But mostly, when judged as a thriller, this works quite well. One thing I really disagreed with here was the choice to go with the shortened ending. I strongly preferred the alternate ending, and I recommend you watch it if you get the DVD. It not only brought better closure to the movie, but it dealt with some of the substantial themes that had been previously ignored. Like the movie earned the right to say what it wanted to say about capital punishment and grief.

Discussion Questions:
~Consider how this movie tries to direct and misdirect you in order to keep the plot a mystery to you until the time they want to reveal the truth. Is such misdirection a form of lying? When you’re watching mystery movies, do you use your observations about what the movie is trying to get you to believe in order to figure out the truth of the plot?
~How does this movie leave you feeling about psychiatrists, police, and the law?
~Do you feel like justice was done at the end? What about in the alternate ending?
~Does this movie affect your view of the world and the safety of the world?
~What is all the commentary about free will supposed to mean?
~What is this movie saying about the people who get attached to murderers and strive for their release?
~Would it matter to you if he had coached the witnesses if it was patently clear to him that this person was guilty?
~Who in this movie is sane and insane?
~What do you think of Jack’s comments about the death penalty and personal grief in the alternate ending?
~Would you say that Jack is trying to atone for his earlier failure with the rest of his life? Why does he find it so hard to form attachments with people?

~Is Jack a hero?
~How might becoming a Christian have transformed Jack?
Overall Grade: B
If you can stomach the bad stuff, this is a very good thriller in the tradition of DOA and No Way Out.

No comments: